Jackson Zoo closes gates for at least 2 to 3 months, city officials say

Published: Sep. 30, 2019 at 8:01 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Today in Hinds County Chancery Court, attorneys for board members of the Jackson Zoological Society attempted to settle the lawsuit brought against their clients by the city.

But the city wasn’t in the mood to bargain, they said. Having brought a lawsuit against the Zoological Society and each individual board member asking for delinquent water bills, the city’s attorneys would not agree to the Society’s attorneys’ suggestions of a settlement.

As the hearing had gone on, it was shown that many former board members had been included in the lawsuit -- some that had been gone more than a year. And some of the board members that were served with the suit were served after the mandatory five day window.

The hearing was rescheduled for Oct. 11 at 10 a.m. so the city could get those things in order, the judge said.

Board members just want to know that the animals will be well-taken care of, said Attorney Skip Jernigan.

“We’d be willing to lease them for a dollar," Jernigan said. "We’d do whatever is necessary to make sure these animals are taken care of, but so far we haven’t had much cooperation, and they’re going to do what they want.”

The problem is in the Class C license that neither the city nor the company they chose to take over the zoo has.

“Without licenses they don’t really legally have the right to possess those animals. Even though the title or ownership will revert to them at midnight tonight, they have to have that license to possess those type of animals, the exotic animals,” said Jernigan.

The animals will continue to be cared for by the same crew that has them now, but under the city’s oversight. Jernigan said he has some specific goals for the next hearing.

“One, get the board members dismissed individually and hopefully to have an agreement with the city about the use of our license so they can take care of the animals appropriately,” he said.

City spokeswoman Candice Cole said the Zoo employees will be paid as consultants until the Zoo opens back up so they don’t experience an interruption in pay.

The Zoo will undergo renovations during the time it’s closed, Cole said. She said officials estimate between two to three months until it opens again.

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